8 Tips For TV Dashboard Productivity

Get the maximum performance out of your TV dashboard screens


Setting up the perfect TV dashboard is somewhat of an art that is often overlooked and performed poorly, however we tend to find our selves depending on these screens for our day to day business more and more, so why wouldn’t we want to ensure we are getting the most out of these business critical tools?

TV dashboards are useful tools

Here’s a common situation... Someone suggests in a meeting that we need to put a few dashboards and reports on display around the office so the team can stay on top of events as they happen and so we can get insights into performance measurements at a glance without needing to login to a tool and manually review the dashboard.

This was initially just a small selection of Power BI dashboards on rotation with a few sales charts thrown into the mix.

Soon after, we have multiple tv dashboard screens on display, rotating through a somewhat arbitrary collection of charts, reports and content that was hastily decided on without any real consideration.

A few weeks go by and its clear, we need to make some changes, add more dashboards, fix some of the display timings, some are shown too quickly, whilst others need less time on screen, yet no one seems to touch it, nor does anyone know where the keyboard and mouse has gone or how to actually update the tv dashboard software!

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry we’ve got you, here’s our top tips for TV dashboard productivity to ensure you’re getting the most out of those screens.

1. Avoid long rotation lists for critical information

That single TV dashboard screen in the middle of the office started out well when there was just a handful of dashboards on the rotation, but now a year down the track the number of dashboard & reports added to the rotation has tripled and our most critical performance metrics are only on display for a few seconds every 10 minutes.

Let’s take an example, let’s say we have 5 dashboards that contain critical business metrics that we want to display on screens in the office with our TV dashboard software for 60 seconds at a time.

For every 5 minutes that pass, each of these dashboards will be on screen, visible, for a full minute.

Now over time we’ve created many more dashboards, some less critical, some for purely digital signage reasons such as date, time or news feeds. Now we have 15 screens, again displaying for 60 seconds at a time.

That critical metrics dashboards that you originally setup this TV dashboard to display is now only on screen for 1 minute out of every 15 minutes, which is 4 minutes out of every hour. If you don’t happen to be looking at that screen during that very small slice of time, then you may miss something critical.

We refer to this as “ToS” or “Time On Screen”, which as the name suggest, is simply a measure of the time a particular piece of information or content appears on screen.

The solution to this problem is simple, keep your rotations lists short, and instead of adding more and more onto the same rotation, break them out on to additional TV dashboard screens.

In our example above, by simply adding a second TV screen we can display 7 dashboards on one and 8 on the other, which only slightly reduces the time on screen for our most critical information reports.

This is also gives us the option to display more critical reports and dashboards on one screen and less critical, pure digital signage purpose screens on the other.

A quick guide to work from is you should always keep your dashboard rotations under 10 minutes in total provided you are displaying each dashboard for between 30 - 60 seconds. If you're using VuePilot to display your dashboards, there is a little running time indicator on the edit rotation screen to help you keep track.

Dashboard Rotation Running Time

If your tv dashboard software has the option, you may also consider using scheduling functionality to simply hide certain dashboard screens from the rotation during certain times which can also improve your “time on screen” ratio for critical dashboards. More on scheduling in tip 4.

Depending on your choice of TV dashboard software this may increase the complexity of managing these rotations. A multi screen software solution that will allow you to control and update multiple screens simultaneously is highly recommended here, see “how to manage multiple dashboard screens from one machine" for more information

2. The “At a glance” rule, keep complexity low to allow for fast recognition

It’s very tempting when we’re designing dashboards and reports to cram as many charts and figures into a screen as we can. More information is better right? Not necessarily, in fact, in many cases you’re worse off.

Sitting directly in front of a large 27” computer monitor and viewing a dashboard or charts is very different to when you’re viewing a dashboard on a TV screen, from 10 meters across the room. A good test when designing your dashboard screens is to simply step back from your monitor a few steps and see how well you can still read the information on screen. You will likely find you can’t read the text anymore, but instead you can simply make out colours, shapes & charts.

To put it simply, you should design your dashboards and reports for either the big TV dashboards screen or the desktop computer monitor in mind.

Avoid using tables of information that resemble spreadsheets unless you are increasing the font sizes significantly. Text becomes unreadable at only a short distance away from the screen where as colours and shapes are still legible from much greater distances

Try to give sections of the screen padding space. Visually it is much easier to parse information on a screen quickly when our eyes are not overloaded by information.

A busy unreadable dashboard

Here's an example of a busy dashboard. There's so much information your eyes don't know where to focus and the text is basically unreadable from even a short distance

A clean readable dashboard

Now here's an example of a clean dashboard. There's far less things to confuse you and the page in general is much easier to digest at a glance if you're just walking by.

The golden rule here is that you should be able to interpret the information on screen, at a glance from across the room. Maybe you’re just wandering past on the way to a meeting or heading to the bathroom but being able to quickly interpret the data on screen in a second or two at a glance is critical to ensuring your tv dashboards are effective tools in the workplace.

3. Use visual cues to highlight textual & numeric data

Following on from tip number 2, we can improve our “at a glance” performance by simply using more visual cues that draw our attention from afar. A good example of this is the usage of spark lines or stock market style red/green arrow indicators that can be far easier visually parsed from across the room compared to say, a table of text and numbers.

A guage showing various indicators

Shapes and colours are easily identifiable and should be used to compliment text based information. The presence of a simple downward facing red arrow or a red traffic light indicator catches your eye far better than some black text on a white background that says “89%”.

Instead of displaying large numbers, try displaying a gauge. The gauge can represent several different metrics at the same time, such as when measurements are very low, when they are very high or when they have crossed some sort of threshold.

If adding elements like spark lines or arrow markers is not possible, consider simply changing the font colour to an orange or red to highlight important figures. The colour alone will be enough to draw your attention after which you can just step closer to inspect.

4. Use scheduling to show only what’s important at the right time

Scheduling dashboards can improve time on screen

This will be dependent on your choice of tv dashboard software and it may or may not be as useful to some as others, however if your software of choice allows you schedule when certain content should be on screen and when it should not be, this can be a very powerful tool for improving the effectiveness of your tv dashboards.

Business’s that have “critical business operating hours” for example, stock traders, retail oriented & operations teams or businesses that have rotating teams of staff will often benefit from being able to display critical information dependent on time of day, day of week or team on shift.

We talked about “Time On Screen” in point 1, and the ability to schedule content on screens at times that are critical to your business is a powerful feature that is often overlooked.

Here’s an example

An IT department for a major online retailer is likely to have numerous dashboards detailing web traffic, throughput, server loads and resource consumption on screens in the IT department area.

They depend on these screens to monitor the performance of the web application at critical business hours of the day, these generally being between 8am and 8pm each day.

At night however another engineering team comes on as a night shift team and performs various maintenance and change tasks out side of the peak operating hours to minimise the possibility of impacting regular business trading.

Creating a dashboard rotation schedule

These two teams have somewhat different requirements with regards to what they want to monitor and each team has composed their own specific dashboards that assist them to perform their duties. The night shift team are less concerned about traffic throughput because at 11pm at night, this is generally very minimal, however they do care about the performance of the database and the disk read speeds as they are performing a number of large volume backup operations.

The day shift engineers rarely need to monitor disk read times and access speeds because the web application is mostly serving cached content.

You could have each team manually change the rotation on screen when they start the shift, but that would be cumbersome and someone is manually responsible for doing that each day.

A much better solution would be to simply have a rotation with all of the engineering dashboards included in it, and simply configure a schedule for each to be displayed, with no schedule configured for those that are common and should be displayed all the time.

This might look something like

  • Web traffic & throughput dashboards (8AM to 8PM daily)
  • Server health status dashboards (no schedule - 24/7)
  • Disk latency & access dashboards (8PM to 8AM daily)
  • Web site general response time & uptime report (no schedule - 24/7)
  • Company announcements (no schedule - 24/7)

For more information on tv dashboard scheduling functionality and what this may look like, see our guide on using the VuePilot scheduler

5. Integrate digital signage to create engaging informational rotations, not just dashboards

TV dashboard screens that are on display in the middle of the office can make great digital notice boards, we don’t need to resign them to simply displaying boring charts all day, we can utilise them to convey all sorts of information that may be useful to everyone in the company, not just your team.

Some example of useful screens you may wish to add to your rotation, in between those reports

  • Company announcements
  • The weather
  • Time & date
  • News feeds
  • Twitter feeds
  • RSS feeds
  • Timetables
  • Promotional content
  • Video & images

Adding a few of these into your regular dashboard rotation is a great way to break up the monotony of endless charts and numbers. Simply displaying the latest tweet from your companies account or flashing the weather on screen for 15 seconds is a nice way to provide interesting information in a stylish way.

  • Display announcement messages & image themes with the announcements app
    Display eye catching custom styled time and date screens

    Where Everyone Can See

    Display dashboards and reports on big screens for everyone to see keeping everyone informed

  • Display local weather forecasts on screens around your business
    Weather Digital Signage

    Weather Forecasts

    Display local weather forecasts on screens around your business with current and upcoming temperatures

  • Display Power BI reports on screens around your office
    Power BI Logo

    Microsoft
    Power BI

    Display and manage Microsoft Power BI dashboards & reports on screens around your workplace

  • Display beautiful full screen articles with images from any RSS feed
    RSS Logo

    RSS Feeds

    Display beautiful full screen articles with images from any RSS feed

  • Display news feeds in between reports on your screens from major providers like CNN and The New York Times
    GitHub Logo

    GitHub Dashboards

    Pull request dashboards with continuous integration status reports to keep developers informed

  • Display news feeds in between reports on your screens from major providers like CNN and The New York Times
    CNN Logo

    News Headlines

    Display news feeds in between reports on your screens from major providers like CNN and The New York Times with a few simple clicks.

  • Display announcement messages & image themes with the announcements app
    Display news feeds in between reports on your screens from major providers like CNN and The New York Times

    Announcements

    Easily create & display styled announcement messages with image themes for events

  • Display announcement messages & image themes with the announcements app
    Display eye catching custom styled time and date screens

    Utility Screens

    Display useful styled information such as calendars or time and date screens

Some examples of digital signage screens using apps

This will be dependent on your choice of TV dashboard software and what functionality they offer, however at VuePilot we provide this functionality in the form of “apps”. An app is a sort of prebuilt screen that you can configure and add to your rotations so you can add all sorts of information to your screens in seconds, creating eye catching and engaging displays.

You can read more about apps and what’s available here

6. Screen visibility & viewing angle

Place your TV dashboards where everyone can see

This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies place TV dashboard screens in corners and out of the way places that make it hard to see. It goes without saying, if you can’t see the screen, It’s really not very useful to anyone.

Classic mistakes we often see are

  • Placing the TV screen next to a window that gets full sunlight every day, making the screen very difficult to see.
  • Mounting the TV around corners or out of the way, so as to hide cables, but also making the screen far less useful in the process.
  • Putting screens in rooms that are less frequently used
  • Mounting screens in a position that does not face the common areas of the workplace, with no line of sight. If you need to walk up to the screen to see it, its not going to be very effective.
  • Using old faded TV screens with terrible contrast that makes it hard for anyone to see unless up close
A compute stick can hide away behind the monitor

Place your TV dashboard screens in places with high foot traffic, where they will actually be seen.

If you are concerned about cables or an ugly box being on display, consider using a small device like a compute stick or a Raspberry Pi to help clean up the appearance and tuck it away behind the screen with no cables for a streamlined look.

See our TV Dashboard Guide for more info about small display devices and when you should use which over the other

7. Use remote control functionality for screen management

In many cases our screens will be wall mounted or at very least placed in a somewhat difficult location to access. It’s highly likely that you are not going to want to leave a keyboard and mouse connected to those screens permanently and lets be honest, plugging them in to update the rotation Is a pain in the butt.

When choosing tv dashboard software to drive your screens, be it either a simple dashboard rotator plugin or a more comprehensive piece of software, consider how you are going to update these screens.

One main considerations you may have Is the ability to remotely manage what’s on screen and the ability update the dashboard rotation lists without needing to physically be at the screen. This feature can be the difference between an up to date and current tv dashboard or an out dated somewhat stagnant screen that no one can be bothered to update.

Remote control tv dashboard software should have the ability to start, stop and pause dashboard rotations. The pause functionality being especially useful if you need to focus on particular dashboard for a few minutes to analyse something, you can simply pause, gather the information you need and then resume.

Remote & bulk rotation updates

Updating the items in a dashboard rotation list remotely is a huge productivity booster, let me explain why, let’s say you have 10 screens in various departments of your office, each of the 10 screens have contextual dashboards being displayed for those relevant teams, however all of these screens have some common dashboards on the rotation that are relevant to all teams.

Adding or updating these common dashboards means updating 10 machines attached to 10 screens, in other words, a huge amount of duplicated effort and quite frankly a pain in the ass. Being able to update a rotation remotely and update several rotations at a time from a centralised location means this task takes little more than a few seconds.

Here’s a quick example of what I mean, using VuePilot as an example

  • We have just created a new Microsoft Power BI report that we wish to display on 6 of our screens across a number of rotations.
  • We have just created a VuePilot Power BI app to from the dashboard that we will use to display the report on screen.
  • We then click the “Add To Rotation” button, which will display the listing of rotations, of which we simply check which rotations we want to this report to appear in.
  • We’re done, it took less than a minute to complete and we didn’t even need to leave our seat.
Adding Microsoft Power BI dashboards to your rotation

An example of adding a Microsoft Power Bi report to multiple rotations at the same time using VuePilot

Remote machine & screen management

The ability to individually control each screen from a centralized online dashboard and manage what’s on display with just a few clicks is a huge productivity booster. This functionality will eleminate the need to manually access the machine and configure which rotation displays on which screen for multi screen setups

It should realistically take no longer then a minute to update every screen in your workplace so you can get back to work

Remotely manage your TV dashboard machines from the VuePilot dashboard

Shown here is the interface for managing a TV dashboard machine and it's attached screens remotely using the VuePilot dashboard.

Read more about how to remotely control TV dashboard screens here

8. Always ensure threshold and alarm levels are set and visible

When it comes to dashboards and reports, a huge screen full of charts is often hard to decipher. We mentioned earlier about the “at a glance” concept but it’s worth pointing out that bright colours and bold lines are only useful when they have context, that context is represented in the form of thresholds and alarm levels.

Take for example a Microsoft Power BI dashboard full of charts and numbers, what does 1252 mean? How about 65%? Without a threshold here there is no context as too if those numbers are good or bad. The only people who really know what they mean will be a select few people who created the reports and understand the context from experience with those numbers, but many others won’t.

It seems like an obvious thing, but it’s actually quite common to see dashboards and reports full of charts with no context and no reference as to if those numbers are good or bad.

Set thresholds, even if you don’t have solid numbers to go off, just give your self some sort of guide as to what’s acceptable and what’s out of the realm of ordinary.

When displaying large numbers on their own, have them change colour when it crosses a threshold. A large red “342” seems to indicate something is wrong rather than a large black “342” which just means … well 342 something, which isn't as helpful.

A line chart and threshold

Here is a good example of a threshold is when you see a redline across a line chart and you can clearly see the trend data hovering below it, this gives you a sense of how close you are to breaching the threshold and also helps to indicate if you've actually crossed the threshold at somepoint, maybe without you even knowing it.

A line chart without a threshold is hard to decipher

Here is an example of when there is no threshold set. It would appear that there was a significant increase in page views, with a spike at one point, but it's unclear if this was a problem at all.

Is the peak at around 5,000 page views normal? or is that higher than normal? You can begin to see how that simple red line of context makes a big difference

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